Last year on November 19, Vermont issued the final rule for its law “An Act Relating to the Regulation of Toxic Substances” to regulate Chemicals of High Concern to Children in children’s products. Passed in 2014, this law follows similar ones passed by the State of Washington and Oregon, and legislation introduced, but not passed into law, by Connecticut and Florida. Additionally, in 2015, Westchester County in New York banned formaldehyde, benzene, lead, mercury, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt from children’s products.
If you haven’t followed any of this legislation, a logical reaction might be, why are these needed? Surely the U.S. government doesn’t allow Chemicals of High Concern in children’s products, do they?
Sadly, while there rules for children’s products regarding sizes, shapes and other aspects of physical safety, there are virtually no national safeguards for the chemicals in these products. While the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) does ban six types of phthalates from certain children’s product, it allows the other phthalates. The CPSC also has some regulations regarding the use of lead in metal, but that’s about it.
Furthermore, there are no rules regarding disclosure, and hundreds of new chemicals get introduced into commerce (and consequently products) each year, without any required testing. Unlike a can of soup that lists ingredients, consumers are hard pressed to know what chemicals are found in products, let alone if they are safe, even in products made specifically for babies and children. Amazing.
A 2013 Scientific American article, in fact, found chemicals of high concern in thousands of children’s products. Ridiculous as it sounds, for the most part it’s not illegal to have untested or questionable chemicals in children’s products, and manufacturers are under no obligation to tell consumers what they use!
This lack of oversite and regulation was a primary reason Naturepedic originally turned to certified organic materials, which by their nature needed to disclose how they were produced. In the face of an overall lack of transparency, organics provided a way to safeguard products from unwanted, and unknown, chemical dangers.
For the Vermont law, 66 chemicals of high concern have been identified, the same ones as called out by the Washington state law. To view this list of chemicals, go the Washington state website.
It’s astounding that states and counties feel they must step forward to protect children from harmful chemicals, but that’s the current state of affairs. The lesson in all of this is that, as highlighted by these state and regional acts, you can’t rely on the government to protect your baby from toxic chemicals. Fair or not, the job continues to rest on the shoulders of educated consumers.